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Holiday Asthma Triggers for Kids

Asthma Triggers: Oh, Christmas Tree

While a tree in and of itself might not trigger an asthma attack, what’s on it certainly could.

“Christmas trees usually have leftover mold on them, or pollen, and many people with asthma have an increased difficulty breathing when you bring a live tree in the house and you warm it up,” says Honsinger.

And then there are the decorations--the dusty, dirty decorations that have been sitting in the basement for 11 months.

“People get all their ornaments out of their basements and closets and they’re covered in dust,” Honsinger tells WebMD.

The Christmas tree all lit up with warm lights and decorated with old bulbs is a perfect recipe for asthma trouble in kids, so wipe it down with a damp cloth before you set it up in the middle of your living room to remove outdoor allergens.  Before you drag your holiday storage containers out of the basement, give them a good dusting so they’re free of mites, pest droppings and other unpleasant holiday treats, and wash decorations before you put them on the tree.

Asthma Triggers: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

While it sounds like a nice place for your child to cozy up after a big holiday feast, fireplaces can trigger asthma.

“Fireplaces and stoves and things that leak smoke are things that increase the asthma response,” says Honsinger. “It’s not a true allergy--you can’t test for smoke allergies on the skin--but we know that particulate matter or burning material in the air causes an increase in asthma symptoms.”

Particulate matter can also mean exhaust and cigarette smoke, explains Honsinger. So  before you set off to visit grandma who still smokes two packs a day, remember to pack your child’s medicine – and be prepared to head home early if asthma symptoms  flare up.

Asthma Triggers: Baby It’s Cold Outside

When the snow falls and the temperature drops, your child will be eager to go outside and play. But don’t forget that cold air is a known asthma trigger.

“We know that breathing cold, dry air will increase asthma symptoms,” says Honsinger. “It excites the receptors in the lung causing asthma to come on quickly.”

Cold air dries the lungs out, and makes the chest tighten, explains Honsinger. Warm, moist air, however, is just what a kid with asthma needs.

“During cold weather have your child wear a scarf when he’s outside,” says Honsinger. ”They breath through the cloth and it catches moisture. Then they breath back in through it and it warms the air and makes the air moist. Then they’re less likely to get that feeling of tightness.”

To be on the safe side, if your child is playing outside, monitor her peak flow every hour or so. 

“Use a peak flow meter so you can see how fast your child’s air is coming out,” says Honsinger. “Use a set of guidelines that you set up with your physician, so if the peak flow drops below a certain level, use medicine. If it drops further, you better seek help. It’s something to watch.”

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